A group of prominent American Jews, in tandem with a group of retired, left-wing Israeli military and security officials and an American security think tank, is seeking—via the next U.S. president, whoever he or she will be—to force policies on Israel that its government and a large majority of its population oppose.
Ron Kampeas of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports:
In a rare and sharp split with Israeli government policy, a group of Jewish community leaders wants to get a proposal for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the next president’s desk….
Elements of the proposals…are radical departures from the policies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s current government…. Tactically, getting the next president to kick-start new talks is also anathema to Netanyahu, who regards outside pressure as counterproductive.
Kampeas explains that the organization behind this initiative, the Israel Policy Forum,
was established in the early 1990s at the behest of then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who went over the head of what was then a hawkish pro-Israel establishment to seek U.S. Jewish backing for his peace talks with the Palestinians.
In other words, Rabin made that move during the early euphoria over achieving “peace” with Yasser Arafat and his PLO. From that point until Arafat’s death in 2004, well over a thousand Israelis were killed in unprecedented waves of terror attacks.
“This time, however,” Kampeas notes,
the party doing the reaching over is not the Israeli prime minister but Jewish community heavyweights who have helmed major Jewish organizations….
In the last 18 months or so, the Israel Policy Forum has signed to its board Alan Solow and Robert Sugarman, past chairmen of the Presidents Conference, the Jewish community’s foreign policy umbrella group.
Solow is also, Kampeas says, “probably the Jewish leader who has been closest to President Barack Obama.”
Kampeas identifies three other American Jewish leaders who have joined the endeavor, then reports:
The initiative will formally launch at a conference here [in Washington] on May 31, showcasing proposals for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from veterans of the Israeli and American diplomatic establishments—represented by Commanders for Israel’s Security and the Center for a New American Security, respectively.
Mainstream Jewish groups have long been resistant to openly challenging Israel on security issues. Solow said that was less of a consideration in Israel’s volatile political climate.
“One doesn’t know what Israel’s government is going to look like in a week,” he said….
“Taking on the perspective from those in the pro-Israel community, the only reasonable Zionist solution is to have two states for two people[s],” Solow said.
In addition to “getting their proposal on the next president’s desk,” the revamped Israel Policy Forum is “planning private and public representations for Jewish community leaders and members of Congress.”
A few observations:
1. If someone had been offering you something since 1937 and you had turned it down every time, wouldn’t it be fair to conclude that it was something you didn’t want? The Palestinians have periodically been offered a two-state solution for almost eight decades: from the 1937 Peel Commission plan to the 1947 UN partition resolution to the 2000-2001 Barak-Clinton offers, the 2008 Olmert offer, and John Kerry’s 2014 framework document. Each time they turned the proposal down flat. In the latter two cases, the Olmert offer and the Kerry offer, the Palestinian leader was Mahmoud Abbas—who is also the current leader. (Here Abbas confirms that he turned down the Olmert offer; here Israel’s dovish, pro-peace process Channel 2 reported that he emphatically rejected the Kerry offer.)
2. The notion of a final, formal, signed Israeli-Palestinian peace has a hold over some minds so powerful—even in the face of repeated invalidation—that it belongs to the domain of the psychological. The large majority of Israelis now understand—in many cases from firsthand, bitter experience—that the Palestinian side will not relinquish the “right of return,” considers Israel an illegitimate entity, and will sign no document that perpetuates its status as a Jewish state. Need more proof? Here’s a comprehensive overview, published late in 2015, of 330 Palestinian public opinion surveys showing that Palestinians overwhelmingly regard Israel as an illegitimate entity that needs to be violently attacked.
3. In the military profession as in all others in Israel, a wide mix of political opinions exist. Groups like the Israel Policy Forum can always find Israelis, including military and security professionals, who see things the way they do. The 2016 Pew Center survey of Israel reports that:
Most Israeli Jews describe their ideology as in the center (55%) or on the right (37%) within the Israeli political spectrum. Just 8% of Israeli Jews say they lean left.
The Israel Policy Forum—like anyone else, anywhere—has a right to agree with the 8% of Israelis who are on the left. They manifestly do not have a right, even if they can get some Israelis from the minuscule Israeli left to go along with them, to impose their views on the majority of Israelis as represented by their democratically elected government.
4. Solow’s statement that “One doesn’t know what Israel’s government is going to look like in a week” is an extreme distortion. Since 1977 Israel has had eleven Likud governments, two Likud-Labor national-unity governments, two Labor governments, and one government led by Kadima (a relatively dovish spin-off of Likud). In other words, the right-of-center Likud has clearly been dominant for almost four decades, and especially since 2008—from which time all three governments have been Likud-led. There is parliamentary volatility, but ideological consistency.
5. Even if Israeli governmental shifts really were an unpredictable hodgepodge, it would not mean foreign actors have the right to effectively take the reins of Israeli policy. This is, of course, obviously true as a general principle, and all the more poignantly true as it is Israelis who pay the price when policies go wrong.
6. It is Israelis, not American Jews, or other Americans, who live with the Palestinians as immediate, next-door neighbors. In the early 1990s, perhaps half of Israelis agreed with the peace ideology according to which the Palestinians had reconciled with the reality of Israel and were prepared to reach a lasting accommodation with it. A quarter-century later, after thousands of suicide bombings, shootings, stabbings, Molotov cocktails, rockets, and mortars, only a tiny minority of Israelis still espouse the peace ideology. The fact that some American Jews—calling themselves “Zionists”—show brazen contempt for the Israeli majority means that they themselves deserve nothing but contempt.